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Mr. Hopkins: I strongly support what the hon. Gentleman is saying. I suggest that the idea that the European Union knows best is certainly not true of its international aid, which is inefficient and misdirected, whereas the international aid given by our Government is much more efficient and better directed.
Mr. Luff: Consensus is again the order of the day. I can only agree robustly with what the hon. Gentleman says. He is absolutely right, and that point gives the lie to the old argument that spending more is always automatically good. If we just repatriated our money that is spent by the European Union on humanitarian aid, and spent it ourselves, the poor of the developing world would be so much better off. I entirely agree with what the hon. Gentleman says, which enables me to remove a whole section of my speech. I am grateful to him for that, because I am already beginning to talk for too long.
Mr. David: To extend still further the consensus in the Chamber, may I commend the hon. Gentleman on his trenchant analysis of the European Commission? May I therefore take it that he will be supporting the draft European constitution, because one of its key elements is giving nation states more power over the Commission?
Mr. Luff: I think that you might get a little impatient, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I started to speak on the European constitution. I would be the first to acknowledge that there are some good things in the European constitution, but I still think that we do not need it and that there are good things about other routes.
"European citizenship must serve to guarantee concrete rights and duties, in particular, freedom, justice and security, and ensure access to basic public services at European level. The benefits of membership for citizens now extend beyond market freedoms, and these issues must be prioritised."
In other words, the European Commission has to start to get its hands on the delivery of health, education and all the other fields that we thought were the preserve of national Governments.
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"strong global player. No one can question the importance of the role that Europe has to play in the world, starting from its responsibility vis-à-vis its neighbours . . . Be it development assistance"
"trade policy, foreign and security policy or external aspects of other policies, the expectations for Europe are growing."
Well, the European Commission might not hold that view quite so clearly if it studied the results of the European Parliament elections from all across Europe. This document is based on an extraordinarily outdated concept of what Europe is all about.
I could spend hours dissecting the document, because it is extraordinary. I shall have to be selective, but I shall not miss out the section on the three priorities for the next financial perspectives. This point, one of the most important in the whole document, is tucked away. The section begins:
"The Internal Market must be completed".
That is absolutely rightthere is no higher priority for the European Union than that, and we have not achieved it yet. Although it is years since we thought that we had achieved it, we still have not. The great thing about achieving the internal market is that it would hardly cost a penny. It would not require any increased expenditure. It is the single most important thing that we could do to make the European Union more effective for its members, and it would not cost a penny. There would be no need to increase expenditure from 1.24 per cent. of GNIno need at all. We would not have to spend any money. The document then goes on about European citizenship and being a global partner as the other two priorities. I just disagree with that, and I think that my constituents, too, would disagree pretty strongly.
"In view of these declining indicators"
"there is an urgent need to speed up the pace of reform and modernisation of Europe's education and training systems."
"A social policy agenda: Helping European society to anticipate and manage change".
"The Union needs to adapt, trigger and absorb change. By dynamically addressing challenges related to rapid change in international competitive conditions, the Social Policy Agenda is the Union's roadmap for policy and action in the employment and social sphere, as part of the overall Lisbon Strategy. Through the combination of legislation, the open method of coordination and social dialogue, and EU budget support, the agenda is instrumental in modernising the European social model."
"The EU level is also the most appropriate place to successfully promote social dialogue, as foreseen by the Treaty."
"The EU level is also the most appropriate place to successfully enhance"
"the quality of industrial relations and promote social dialogue as foreseen by the Treaty."
Fascinatingly, about a third of the budgetthe common agricultural policymerits only a page of this document. Of course, there is no mention at all of the really malign impact of that policy: the trade-distorting subsidies that do so much harm to the developing world.
"Freedom, Security and Justice are core values which constitute key components of the European model of society."
"Through the integration of the Charter of Fundamental Rights into the Constitutional Treaty the Union will have a legal obligation to ensure that fundamental rights are not just respected, but actively promoted as well."
Is that a consequence of the document, which was compared to a children's comic by one Minister? We are invited to believe that the charter is now a major driver for increased expenditure by the European Union.
Mr. David Stewart: The hon. Gentleman has adopted a rather sarcastic tone in respect of some issues, but does he not agree that funding a European social fund, for example, does much to promote equal opportunities within the UK? Is that not a positive thing?
Mr. Luff: There are some good things that the European Union can do better than member states, and it should concentrate on those. It should not be making this extraordinary bid for a wide-ranging increase in its competences and spending programmes.
"Increase the rate of European films distributed outside their country of origin from the current 11 per cent. of the market to 20 per cent. in 2013, double the number of cinemas programming European films by 2010 and training 35,000 audiovisual professionals by 2013".
Are they going to double the audiences going to see European films? I doubt that very much. In fact, I would rather that they doubled the number of cinemas showing Bollywood films, because that is the market currently growing in the UK.
This is one of the most extraordinary and alarming documents that I have ever read. I was going to quote from the section on European aid, but I shall not do so in view of the comments of the hon. Member for Luton, North. The prediction of what will happen if the EU keeps at 1 per cent. of gross national income I regard as
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both ludicrous and sometimes beneficial. For example, one of the first things that the document states is that efforts in terms of external aid will be reduced. Excellent. If that is the cost of keeping to 1 per cent., the poor of the world will be able to cheer, as we deny the European Commission the extraordinary ambition that it demonstrates in this very frightening document.
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